Make Every Day International Day of Happiness

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Yesterday, March 20, 2013, was the first annual UN-designated International Day of Happiness. Around the world people offered free hugs and smiles, meditated, held flash mobs, and participated in something called laughter yoga... which I had to Google. (I'd encourage you to do the same, or just start here, it seems pretty awesome!)

According to the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the purpose of the International Day of Happiness was to "reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others. When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Compassion promotes happiness and will help build the future we want."

Grand ideals, right? And we all had a fantastic time yesterday smiling, laughing, and hugging... but is the good will generated by such an event sustainable? Did we really renew a pledge to help others? Have we, as a society, as a world of disparate societies, even really made such a pledge in the first place?

Huge questions, right? Let's talk micro-level then, rather than macro. Tomorrow is Friday, and I don't know about you guys, but I often go into the weekend burnt out from my work week, with almost zero opportunities for rest on the horizon. Like many people, I often find myself facing a weekend full of errand-running and social obligations that are every bit as exhausting as a typical working Wednesday.

In all of this hustle and bustle, where is the time for happiness? In my life, I try my best to make it happen on those Friday afternoons. There's almost no point in my week where I'm more in need of a little battery recharge in the form of happiness and inspiration. sometimes I'll do something totally for me... bake cookies, curl up on the couch with my fiance and watch a movie, or just knock off to bed early with a good book. all of these things make me happy, but they don't give me a real zap of inspirational energy like I get when I do something for someone else.

A few Fridays ago, the fiance and I were out for a late dinner at a local diner. About halfway through our meal, the hostess sat two elderly gentlemen at the booth just beside us. I'll admit, I have a weakness for adorable little old men. I had the most awesome grandfather imaginable, which probably accounts for my fondness. Over the next 15 minutes we overheard snippets of their conversation... and no, we were being all stalker-y... they were talking pretty loud and we were 3 feet away! I was able to gather that they were longtime friends, and that this was a weekly dinner tradition they were upholding.

When the waitress came to bring our check, I caught her eye and whispered, gesturing below the level of the booth, "Can you add their check on to mine?"

Her eyes grew wide, like this was some ridiculous request, "Do you know them?" she whispered back.

"Nope, not at all," I replied, but they seem really sweet, and I'd like to do something nice for them. Please, don't say anything to them until after we've left."

She smiled and withdrew, returning a few minutes later with the adjusted bill. "I think what you're doing is great," she said quietly as she accepted my credit card.

We left a few minutes later, and smiled all the way home. Such a simple thing brought a lightness to my step for days, and gave me just the battery recharge I'd been needing. It hadn't been an overly large gesture, the restaurant was a simple place, and their two meals together had been less than $15 added on to my check. It was something that I'm, happily, in the position to be able to afford to do, and it made me happy, along with (I hope!) spreading a little of that happiness out beyond myself.

If you ask me, this is what International Day of Happiness is all about. It's not just one day. It's all the days that come after, and the changes we can make in our lives, to spread that happiness year round. So, if you celebrated International Day of Happiness yesterday, and it changed something in you that's awesome. Now do it again today. And tomorrow. And the next day. If enough of us keep doing it, we really can nudge the world to a happier place.

About the Author

Lindsay Brunner


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